I am aware of a few ways to "upcycle" a sealable coffee (ground or whole beans) bag (see photo), but how recyclable is it?

I am sure it depends a lot on where I live, but I was wondering if you knew of a system currently in place that allows a recycling plant to recover the materials that are part of those bags, which I often see made of plastic/aluminium or paper/plastic/aluminium. They often include an "aerating/breathing" plastic circle on one side.

I am asking because I know that it is very common to recycle complex packagings like drink cartons (i.e. Tetra Pak type).

Two types of coffee bags. None of them displays any information about materials.

  • 2
    Our local recycling facility recently started recycling tetra paks, but they don't recycle other paper/plastic, paper/aluminium or plastic/aluminium composites. They say this is because the materials are often 'melted' together which makes it impossible to separate properly. Tetra paks on the other hand are glued, so I guess the recyclability depends how the composites are bound together. BTW, I've heard mixed stories about how much of a Tetra pak is really recycled. Some say everything, some say only the paper layer and the rest gets recycled thermally (burned).
    – THelper
    Mar 29, 2016 at 7:43
  • I think its more resource intensive to recycle the materials, rather than leave as it is, punch it to make pellets, then use that material to make other things: plastic lumber, park benches, and picnic tables - sustainablog.org/2015/05/recycling-juice-pouches-into-big-value
    – Sun
    Jun 2, 2017 at 9:01
  • As a side note, I just discovered they are very useful to reuse to go to the bulk store and buy loose ingredients. Brown paper bags are fine, but those coffee resealable bags a perfect for flours, grains a seeds because they won't open or pierce when transported. And their weight is negligible enough.
    – stragu
    Sep 9, 2018 at 6:26

1 Answer 1


It depends on whether you can separate the aluminum alloy, plastic, and biological layers. These three are distinct raw materials in the creation of new metal, plastic, and paper. It is difficult to mechanically and chemically separate these items in an automated system, although possible. It is questionable whether the energy and raw materials required to do so is greater than the sustainability value to have them separated. In all likelihood, simple long term rotting is the way to return such materials to the biosphere, but if you can find a way to hand separate them quickly, they you could recycle them and the total process is much more likely to be sustainable.

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